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Microsoft dubs Windows Phone 7 'ad serving machine'

Mobile OS to spew out-of-app ads

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Microsoft is positioning its upcoming Windows Phone 7 smartphone OS, planned for release this October, as an "ad-serving machine."

That's how Microsoft exec Kostas Mallios described the OS to an audience that could be expected to approve of Windows Phone 7's taking a starring role in the mobile-advertising firmament: attendees at the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival.

Microsoft's smartphone OS will provide advertisers with three levels of ad-serving "opportunities" in addition to standard browser-based ads, and in a radical departure from the tacks taken by either Apple's app-based iAds, scheduled to launch next Thursday, or Google's browser-centric world, two of Windows Phone 7's ad-delivery systems will enable ads to be sent outside of either apps or the browser.

The first level of ad-serving is app-based. No surprise there. App-based ads can be either static or can be updated over the air by advertisers attempting to build an ongoing "conversation" with customers who have chosen to download their apps, providing product and service news, offers, coupons, and the like.

The next two ad-serving schemes, however, break new ground — although some may argue that it's ground that might better be left un-tilled.

One is based on Windows Phone 7's concept of "tiles", which are graphic elements that reside on the home screen as do icons and folder in iOS, or icons, folders, and widgets in Android. Tiles can be created from apps that can be "pinned" onto a location of the user's choice on the home screen, and be updated dynamically with advertising content.

"That tile," Mallios told his crowd, "is actually a dynamic tile that you're now able to push information to as an advertiser, and stay in touch with your customer. It's a dynamic relationship that's created. It provides for an ongoing dilogue with a consumer."

Exactly how ads pushed onto the home screen of your smartphone is a "dialogue", Mallios did not explain.

However, what if the app is not running? You may think, Mallios explained, that you've "severed the relationship" with the customer.

No problem. "We have a third concept called 'toast'," Mallios said. "So now we have applications that are actually dynamic that you can download, that you can 'pin' in a new concept called 'tiles' — those tiles are another communications stream between you and your audience. And if neither of those are running — if the app is not loaded, if the pinning doesn't happen — we have another way to reach your customers called 'toast.'"

Toast allows advertisers to push ads onto your Windows Phone 7 smartphone whether you have an associated app running or not. The advertiser sends your phone an ad, your phone receives and displays it, you view it, and presumably you tap 'n' buy whatever the advertiser is promoting.

Mallios adds: "A customer can opt out of all of this, or they can opt in — it depends on how creative we are in gathering their attention and wanting to keep them engaged."

All well and good, but from where we sit, this Windows Phone 7 scheme appears to be exploring new frontiers in advertising intrusiveness. If Microsoft doesn't make it easy and transparent to opt out of 'toast', that word might well describe the fate of its upcoming "ad-serving machine."

You can view all of Mallios' eight minute–plus Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival demo in the video below:

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